After crossing a bridge over St Andrews Bay, I was in Panama City, and I chose to take Business98 through town. Pam stayed on the 98 bypass, and neither of us were impressed at all with Panama City. I did see them setting up for their Mardi Gras festival this weekend along the bay. I also passed another paper mill, with the unique smell, logging trucks coming from every direction, and huge piles of logs and wood chips. I didn't take a picture because of the security that was stationed along US98, but these mills are big. This industry is not what you think of when you think of Florida, but its bigger business than tourism on the Gulf side of north Florida, and the 'forgotten coast', as I have heard this area referred to.
Another big bridge, and the world changed, as Panama City became Panama City Beach, which could have been a resort town in south Florida anywhere. I chose to stay on good old US98, but Florida route 30, broke off and rode right along the coastline, along the 20 story condos and all the private beaches, I presume. I stayed on 98, hoping the two lanes of Friday traffic would continue to break up the headwind that was continuing to haunt me. The idea worked a little, but progress was still slow, averaging 12-13 mph, with the chill still biting through my gear, until about 12:30. That's when the sun decided to come out, and the wind slacked off, and I could begin to enjoy the ride. By the time the sun came out, however, I had decided that there would not be an additional six weeks of winter, hence the Groundhog Day comment, no matter what they say in Punxsutawney .
Panama City Beach and Laguna Beach ran for about 15 miles, then the terrain returned to the endless straight rows of second or third generation pine trees that were planted to feed the paper mills some day. I hit the Walton Beaches area after that, and our campground came up about 10 miles sooner than I thought it would, so with beautiful skies, and friendly winds finally arriving, my trip was over for the day. We are staying at the Camp Gulf Campground, a very nice place that charges $179 a night to camp right on the Gulf during peak season! We got away a lot cheaper than that, but damn! Another beautiful sunset, and sugary white sand made us start to realize that this area is really nice, just not as well known or commercialized as the Atlantic coast. Mike also got to see the proscribed burning along US 98 outside of Destin - they didn't set the fires until after I had passed thru. The smoke made for some neat colors in the sky and enhanced the sunset.
|Mike in his official "Florida sunset watching outfit"! At least since we are in the arctic part of Florida!|
|This is in our campground.|
|Friday night date with a dolphin! Doesn't he look warm?!|
|Sunset at Destin Beach. Note the layers due to the smoke.|